Grief knot

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Grief knot
Grief knot.svg
NamesGrief knot, What knot, Whatnot, Grass bend, Reeving-line bend
Category Trick
Category 2 Bend
Related Reef knot, Thief knot, Granny knot
Releasing Non-jamming
Typical useUsed for jokes and tricks. It unrolls itself under a light load.
CaveatHighly insecure
ABoK #1208, #1406, #1407, #1459, #1490, #2579

A grief knot (also what knot) is a knot which combines the features of a granny knot and a thief knot, producing a result which is not generally useful for working purposes. The word grief does not carry its usual meaning but is a portmanteau of granny and thief.


The grief knot resembles the granny knot, but tied so that the working ends come out diagonally from each other, whereas a granny knot's ends both come out on the same side. It unravels rather elegantly: as tension is applied, the ropes rotate like little cogs, each one twisting to feed the rope through the knot. [1]

The whatnot. This is the same knot formation as the granny knot, but the ends are diagonally opposite each other. It is hardly a practical knot. But with the ends seized it is called the reeving line bend, and it also serves as an interesting trick.


To tie the grief knot, tie a single "overhand knot" (nb: this isn't the same as a single-strand "overhand knot" often used as a stopper or as a component of other knots, such as the fisherman's knot or ring water knot), as if starting a reef knot. Then thrust the two free ends together down through the center of the just-tied overhand knot. [3] Twist the free ends to form half hitches to lock, twist the other way for the granny knot-like configuration that rolls apart when the standing parts are pulled. In short, if the standing parts (the "main lines" which bear force into the knot) nip/cross their own ends, the knot will lock; otherwise, it will probably slip.

As a trick knot

The starkly differing behavior of the knot, depending on how it is arranged, has been exploited as the basis of a parlor trick. [1] When pulling on the standing ends the knot starts slipping and the working ends become crossed. By twisting the working ends so that they uncross and then recross in reverse, the knot's structure is changed so that it will no longer slip. The twisting motion has been paralleled to the turning of a key, "locking" and "unlocking" the knot.


Because the grief knot is known to slip apart "with astonishing ease", [3] it is considered one of the most insecure of knots. [4]

However, in its locked opposing half-hitch arrangement, the grief knot has been used as a practical bend for tying together flat materials, such as straps, belts, blades of grass, and similar materials. This is because the flat shape helps to prevent the knot from accidentally "unlocking". When used in this manner, the knot is known as a grass bend. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Knot Method of fastening or securing linear material

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be practical or decorative, or both. Practical knots are classified by function, including hitches, bends, loop knots, and splices: a hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend fastens two ends of a rope to each another; a loop knot is any knot creating a loop, and splice denotes any multi-strand knot, including bends and loops. A knot may also refer, in the strictest sense, to a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Overhand knot

The overhand knot, also known as a a knot and half knot, is one of the most fundamental knots, and it forms the basis of many others, including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot, and water knot. The overhand knot is a stopper, especially when used alone, and hence it is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. An overhand knot becomes a trefoil knot, a true knot in the mathematical sense, by joining the ends.

Granny knot

The granny knot is a binding knot, used to secure a rope or line around an object. It is considered inferior to the reef knot, which it superficially resembles. Neither of these knots should be used as a bend knot for attaching two ropes together.

The granny knot is also called the false, lubber's, calf, and booby knot. Patterson's Nautical Encyclopedia calls it "old granny knot" and Sir Edwin Arnold calls it the "common or garden knot." The name granny is given in Vocabulary of Sea Phrases and Roding pictures the knot in 1795.

The granny consists of two identical half knots, one tied on top of the other. It has but one practical purpose that I know of and that is to serve as a surgeon's knot. Formerly it was employed for tying up parcels in five-and-ten-cent stores, but the practice was given up and paper bags substituted as they were found to be simpler.

Constrictor knot

The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.


A shank is a type of knot that is used to shorten a rope or take up slack, such as the sheepshank. The sheepshank knot is not stable. It will fall apart under too much load or too little load.

Thief knot Type of knot

The thief knot resembles the reef knot except that the free, or bitter ends are on opposite sides. It is said that sailors would secure their belongings in a ditty bag using the thief knot, often with the ends hidden. If another sailor went through the bag, the odds were high the thief would tie the bag back using the more common reef knot, revealing the tampering, hence the name. It is difficult to tie by mistake, unlike the granny knot.

Marlinespike hitch

The marlinespike hitch is a temporary knot used to attach a rod to a rope in order to form a handle. This allows more tension than could be produced comfortably by gripping the rope with the hands alone. It is useful when tightening knots and for other purposes in ropework.

Packers knot

The packer's knot is a binding knot which is easily pulled taut and quickly locked in position. It is most often made in small line or string, such as that used for hand baling, parcel tying, and binding roasts. This latter use, and its general form, make it a member of a class of similar knots known as butcher's knots. The knot is commonly taught to Guides and Scouts, and those in similar organizations as a basic binding knot.

Sheet bend

The sheet bend is a bend. It is practical for joining lines of different diameter or rigidity.

Stopper knot

A stopper knot is a knot that creates a fixed thicker point on an otherwise-uniform thickness rope for the purpose of preventing the rope, at that point, from slipping through a narrow passage, such as a hole in a block. To pass a rope through a block, or hole, is to reeve it. To pull it out is to unreeve it. Stopper knots prevent the rope from unreeving on its own.

Half hitch

The half hitch is a simple overhand knot, where the working end of a line is brought over and under the standing part. Insecure on its own, it is a valuable component of a wide variety of useful and reliable hitches, bends, and knots.

Surgeons knot

The surgeon's knot is a surgical knot and is a simple modification to the reef knot. It adds an extra twist when tying the first throw, forming a double overhand knot. The additional turn provides more friction and can reduce loosening while the second half of the knot is tied. This knot is commonly used by surgeons in situations where it is important to maintain tension on a suture, giving it its name.

Halter hitch

The halter hitch is a type of knot used to connect a rope to an object. As the name implies, an animal's lead rope, attached to its halter, may be tied to a post or hitching rail with this knot. The benefit of the halter hitch is that it can be easily released by pulling on one end of the rope, even if it is under tension. Some sources show the knot being finished with the free end running through the slipped loop to prevent it from working loose or being untied by a clever animal, still allowing easy but not instant untying.

Two half-hitches

Two half-hitches is a type of knot, specifically a binding knot or hitch knot. One variety consists of an overhand knot tied around a post, followed by a half-hitch. This knot is less often referred to as a clove hitch over itself, double half-hitch, or full-hitch.

Two half hitches is the commonest of all hitches for mooring in particular and also for general utility. Steel gives the name in 1794. The difference between two half hitches and the clove hitch is that the former, after a single turn around a spar, is made fast around its own standing part, while the latter is tied directly around the spar.

Bight (knot)

In knot tying, a bight is a curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope, string, or yarn. A knot that can be tied using only the bight of a rope, without access to the ends, is described as in the bight. The term "bight" is also used in a more specific way when describing Turk's head knots, indicating how many repetitions of braiding are made in the circuit of a given knot.

Highpoint hitch

The highpoint hitch is a type of knot used to attach a rope to an object. The main feature of the hitch is that it is very secure, yet if tied as a slipped knot it can be released quickly and easily with one pull, even after heavy loading. The highpoint hitch is a buntline hitch with an extra half turn, making it more secure.

Shoelace knot

The shoelace knot, or bow knot, is commonly used for tying shoelaces and bow ties.

Reef knot Type of knot

The reef knot, or square knot, is an ancient and simple binding knot used to secure a rope or line around an object. It is sometimes also referred to as a Hercules knot. The knot is formed by tying a left-handed overhand knot and then a right-handed overhand knot, or vice versa. A common mnemonic for this procedure is "right over left; left over right", which is often appended with the rhyming suffix "... makes a knot both tidy and tight". Two consecutive overhands of the same handedness will make a granny knot. The working ends of the reef knot must emerge both at the top or both at the bottom, otherwise a thief knot results.

The reef knot or square knot consists of two half knots, one left and one right, one being tied on top of the other, and either being tied first...The reef knot is unique in that it may be tied and tightened with both ends. It is universally used for parcels, rolls and bundles. At sea it is always employed in reefing and furling sails and stopping clothes for drying. But under no circumstances should it ever be tied as a bend, for if tied with two ends of unequal size, or if one end is stiffer or smoother than the other, the knot is almost bound to spill. Except for its true purpose of binding it is a knot to be shunned.


  1. 1 2 Ashley, Clifford W. (1944), The Ashley Book of Knots, New York: Doubleday, p. 415
  2. Ashley, Clifford W. (1944), The Ashley Book of Knots, New York: Doubleday, p. 220
  3. 1 2 Cyrus Lawrence Day (1986), The Art of Knotting and Splicing (4th ed.), Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, pp. 44–45
  4. Geoffrey Budworth (1999). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Knots. London: Hermes House. p. 155.
  5. Ashley, p. 269